Yay, you’ve graduated and now you have to start paying Uncle Sam! (I’m not telling you who that is; Google it dammit.) And with the system being so damn rigged in terms of job opportunities, it’s practically set up for people to struggle. But there is a way to protect yourself financially and to avoid the urge to walk up to the local state house and mess somebody up.
Take Advantage of Income-Based Repayment.
Don’t be in a rush to take a job you know you won’t be able to stand just because of Uncle Sam. Sooner or later, you’re going to get tired of that job and leave no matter what Uncle Sam wants, so it’s not worth it. Take your time and utilize the income-based payment plans that are offered. These plans allow you to pay what you can afford, meaning if you’re making part-time minimum wage, you’re not going to be expected to pay a monthly bill that’s more than your biweekly check.
If You Can Afford to Cough Up a Little More—Do It.
The key to student loans is getting them paid off as soon as possible. The Man will not stop until he gets his money. Seriously. He’ll harass you, threaten you, and he’ll even start going after your family members if he can’t reach you. Don’t let that happen. If you’re blessed enough to find a decent-paying job after graduation that allows you to, say, make a payment for two or three months, don’t hesitate. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t have to worry about how it’s going to get paid down the road. Don’t worry; that concert ticket, Six Flags trip, or whatever else can wait. And in fact, this is a good way to free some money up for the enjoyable things in the future.
Cut Back on Shit You Don’t Need.
The thing that sucks about adulting is that oftentimes, you’ll have to decide what you can and can’t spend your money on. Remember the weekly trip to Panera with the homies? Cut it. Find something else y'all can do each week that doesn’t take so much out of your pockets. Plan a movie or game night at somebody’s house. Go for runs together. Remember getting takeout every day during break? Cut it. Get a cookbook and learn how to throw something together for your lunch. (Reference: The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks by Toni Tipton-Martin) If you discover that after attempting two whole centuries of recipes, you’re still not culinarily inclined worth a damn, bless your heart. Pack some of your mama’s cooking, or just get Hamburger Helper and keep it pushing.
If You Need the Deferment—Ask.
Shit happens. There may come times when you’re simply not able to pay it, no matter how much you’ve tried to save. Request a deferment as soon as you can. Letting student loans go into default can seriously damage your credit, disabling you to take out any home and car loans or get a credit card. Just missing two forty-dollar loan payments costed me 100 credit points. Yup, one whole hundred. Don’t be scared to ask the loaners for some time off until you can get yourself straight. If you don’t, it will come back to haunt you.